Best car cleaning products – tried and tested by evo

10 products that could help protect your car this winter

The winter can be a tough time for your car - road salts attack bodywork, sub-zero temperatures freeze fluids and muck stains interiors. So to help you keep your car protected as the weather changes, we’ve compiled some of our favourite car care and cleaning products, as tested by the evo team.

Simoniz Shapmoo and Wax

£4.99

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wilko.com

Washing and waxing a car can be tiring, but we think we’ve found a cheap product that combines the two. Just 30ml of Simoniz’s Shampoo & Wax is needed per bucket of water, yet it does a remarkable job of displacing dirt, dries without streaks, and leaves a shiny, waxy finish.

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It isn’t a detailer’s dream product, but as a quick and easy solution it’s mighty impressive. So much so that evo snapper Aston Parrott has been using it to clean all of his subjects this month. Sam Sheehan

Autoglym Engine and Machine Cleaner

£10.49

autoglym.com

As sad as this may seem, I believe the clean and tidy engine bay of a well-prepared race car is a thing of beauty. To try and achieve this freshly-rebuilt-engine look on my 180,000-mile 3-series (quite a challenge!), I gave Autoglym’s Engine & Machine Cleaner a try.

Sprayed on and ‘agitated’ with a soft brush, application of the cleaner is wonderfully easy. As long as you keep away from major electrical components and intakes, it can be used liberally. Then you rinse it off with water (even easier). 

The cleaner does a good job of removing light grease, grime and heavy dust. A spray of WD40 and a blast of compressed air after rinsing the engine (it didn’t feel right to simply leave it to dry) actually removed a greater amount of the thick, caked-on grime. For really filthy engines, starting and finishing with compressed air and WD40, while using the Autoglym cleaner in between, gives a great finish.

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I also used the Engine & Machine Cleaner on the 40-year-old wiring loom of my 2002 because not only was it effective, it seemed forgiving on plastics and rubber, too, and did a wonderful job overall. Will Beaumont

Sonax Xtreme Wheel Cleaner Plus

£11.95

cleanyourcar.co.uk 

Cleaning alloy wheels can be a tedious and tiresome process – I should know; I used to have white wheels on my Clio 182. There are plenty of wheel-cleaning products on the market that claim to keep dirt from sticking to alloys, and Sonax’s spray, which uses nano-tech to create a protective layer, is one of them. 

In practice it works very well, and makes cleaning filthy wheels noticeably easier. Even weeks after applying the product, a simple jet wash will see most brake dust displaced immediately. It’s also non-acidic, so won’t damage your wheels with prolonged use. SS 

Muc-Off Über Wax

£40

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muc-off.com 

Muc-Off’s Über Wax, a vivid pink substance, not only protects bodywork, it also adds a high-gloss shine usually only seen with the most premium products. Fans of beading will love the way it repels water, too.

It’s quick to apply and easy to buff off (it comes with a foam applicator pad and a microfibre cloth). Originally developed for mountain bikes, the tough protection it provides works wonders on cars, too. SS 

Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard

£5.99

gtechniq.com

‘Smart surface science’ might sound like marketing lingo, but Gtechniq promises the tagline accurately describes its nanotechnology.

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What it means in the case of this Leather Guard is that the product is made up of tiny nanoparticles, which are more effective at evenly covering surfaces and therefore ensuring cracks and imperfections are protected.

You simply spray the solution onto the accompanying soft foam applicator and wipe it into the leather. After a quick buff, the results are plain to see: leather looks refreshed, and high-wear areas such as bolsters immediately feel smoother. SS

Richbrook Luxury Tailored Car Cover

£109

richbrook.co.uk

This Richbrook lightweight tailormade car cover seemed perfect for me – it’s light and compact (2kg) and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. When not in use the cover tucks into a laptop-sized bag and usefully takes up very little room under the bonnet of my 911.

This isn’t a total ‘storm-proof’ cover – 95 per cent of standing water is expelled – but double-stitching, 100 per cent resistance to UV light, and strong construction provide confidence. For me this cover would only have occasional use anyway.

I found the fit snug on my SC and the mirror pockets were adequate. The spring-clip belts secured the cover well, and so far there’s very little evidence of condensation. The cover material itself is strong and resists sap and bird mess well.

Although it doesn’t purport to offer resistance to extreme weather, this is a good value and well constructed cover. Nick Trott

Unilite Prosafe PS-IL1 LED Rechargeable Inspection Light

£44.95

torchdirect.co.uk

As winter rolls in and darkness shortens the day, the hours available to work on cars are limited. One solution to this issue is Unilite’s ultra-bright Prosafe PS-IL1 LED inspection light. Producing an eye-aching 250 lumens of light, it can illuminate objects as far away as 42 metres.

Weighing just 200g, this rechargeable light isn’t any larger than your average torch, yet it comes equipped with a hanging hook, stand and magnet, and seems tough enough to withstand numerous workshop drops.

We put it to the test under the bonnets of our Fast Fleet vehicles and it proved  easy to use and much more effective than a conventional torch. In fact it’s so bright that when directed at an engine bay at night, we could see significantly more than when working in the same space in natural daylight.

The problem with really bright rechargeable lights is that they often require frequent recharging, but after an hour of constant use the PS-IL1 remained super bright and showed no signs of running out of battery. Unilite claims a three-hour continuous running time, and it takes five hours to recharge it from flat. To recharge, you have the choice of a 12V car charger or mains plug.

When it comes to working in dark spaces or getting a better look at those usually dimly lit areas under a bonnet, the Unilite Prosafe PS-IL1 makes for a very valuable tool. SS 

Bosch Aerotwin Retrofit

£18

halfords.com

Every year thousands of pounds are spent modifying cars to make them go quicker. And that’s just me, let alone the rest of the country. In my relatively short experience of trying to improve cars (and probably often failing) it’s become clear that one of the easiest ways to enjoy your car more and enable it to go quicker in safety is to improve visibility. So as I spend most of my time driving in and near Northamptonshire and not, sadly, in the hills of Tuscany, I’m willing to invest in some top-quality wipers. But do I want these Bosch Aerotwin Retrofit blades? 

The ultimate test for a wiper isn’t during a downpour that would have Noah whipping out the handsaw, it’s when your screen is just a little bit wet. When it’s only spitting, any deficiencies in your wipers are exposed in the form of unwanted screeching sounds or the blades jumping across your screen. 

The good news is that these Bosch items do a wonderful job when there is only a spot of water to clear and when it’s lashing it down. However, despite one of their claimed advantages being an aerodynamic shape that ‘ensures clear vision at high speeds’, I found that at higher speeds the blades began to slightly pulse up and down as they crossed the screen, leaving strips of unwiped water behind. It was a minor issue, didn’t impede my vision dramatically and only happened at high speeds, and it might be isolated to just the car I tested the blades on, but as it’s a main selling point of the Aerotwins I was slightly disappointed that it happened at all. WB

Kärcher K2 Premium Home and Car

£129.99

homebase.co.uk

Every car enthusiast should own a pressure washer, right? I didn’t, and it had been playing on my mind. Then – eureka! I realised that the pathway and patio area at our house was in dire need of a clean and managed to convince the missus that we should invest in a Kärcher. Oh, and on occasion, I could clean my 911 with it. ‘You can clean my car as well, then,’ she replied. Bugger. 

So I bought a Kärcher K2 Premium from Homebase. You get the surprisingly compact pressure washer unit, a fine-mesh water filter, a 6m pressure hose, a detergent tank, a ‘Vario-Power’ spray lance, a ‘Dirtblaster’ lance, a patio cleaner attachment and two bags of detergent.

The pressure with the Vario-Power lance is more than adequate for general domestic and auto cleaning, while switching to the Dirtblaster creates a very high-pressure circular spray – but having removed a strip of varnish from our wooden front door, I can confirm that you shouldn’t point the lance too close to the object…

The soap dispenser is easy to fill and works well, but as I’d rather apply the detergent with a sponge, I can’t see this getting much use. Other points? The hose detangles easily, the unit is not particularly noisy, and the Vario-Power lance is more effective than the patio tool. 

In hindsight, I wouldn’t have bought such a comprehensive package as this, but I’m happy to recommend it nonetheless. It offers good value and high quality. The downside is that I now have to clean the wife’s car every time I go out to clean the Porsche. NT

T-Cut Glass Restorer

£6.99

halfords.com 

When running an older car, one of the biggest disappointments is often poor or ineffectual windscreen wipers. Glass can become scratched and chipped over the years, which doesn’t help, and neither does a build-up of stubborn road grime, pollution and other airborne contaminants, which can be surprisingly hard to clean away properly – even using regular glass cleaner is marginal. 

This is where T-Cut’s Glass Polish Restorer comes in, promising to not only thoroughly clean glass, but also to reduce the appearance of deeper marks and remove finer scratches altogether. After giving my Citroën Xantia Activa a quick wash, I decided to attempt to improve the look of its glass – and the performance of its wipers – by giving this T-Cut a try. 

Following the instructions, I applied the liquid to the windscreen with a damp cloth and kept working at the glass. Once fully buffed off, it left the screen substantially cleaner and with a satisfying gleam. So I then repeated the process on the other windows with similar results.

There are more abrasive kits out there that require the use of a polisher, but these are best left to professionals. This T-Cut product, meanwhile, is never going to be a miracle cure – if the windows have suffered from years of neglect the best you can hope for is a degree of visible improvement. In my case (and after a few applications) it did indeed manage to reduce the visibility of smaller marks. But the big difference came when driving in the rain, as the wipers now seem far more effective. Matthew Hayward

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